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When does creative expression become a health risk?

People often link mesothelioma to asbestos exposure that occurred through work in the construction field or during military service. However, professionals and hobbyists in various other fields could also be at risk of developing this asbestos-related illness.

Manufacturers intentionally added asbestos to many products over the years, including many construction materials. However, companies also unintentionally incorporated asbestos in some products, such as clay and glazes.

How could asbestos be added unintentionally?

Talc and asbestos are two minerals that can naturally occur under the same conditions. This means that asbestos can easily contaminate deposits of talc. When people add talc to products, asbestos fibers may come with it.

Talc is a component of numerous products, such as baby powder, makeup, rubber and paper. It has also been a common product added to clay and glazes used for ceramic art.

How does contaminated talc put artists at risk?

In a clay body, a manufacturer may add talc to help the clay become denser and stronger when fired at a low temperature. For clays fired at high temperatures, a manufacturer may add talc as an auxiliary flux. Although a variety of clays can include talc, it can be a major component in some Raku clay bodies.

Many ceramic artists mix their own glazes, and talc is a common ingredient used to create an opaque, matte surface texture. Artists also use it to mute certain colors in glazes.

How might a ceramic artist become exposed to asbestos?

Asbestos exposure generally occurs when asbestos particles become airborne and get inhaled. This could happen when mixing glazes or when someone is in the presence of clay dust.

While professional artists may have the highest risk of asbestos exposure, no amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Art teachers and students may have also been exposed.

Anyone who may have been exposed may benefit from discussing their situation with a doctor. Symptoms may not appear until decades after the exposure. However, regular examinations can help doctors diagnose and treat any possible asbestos-related illnesses as soon as possible.

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